Yasith Chhun has had a tough life. The Maoist Khmer Rouge government murdered his father during the mid-1970s, and a few years later, Chhun resettled in Long Beach, where he became an accountant. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese communists invaded Cambodia, kicked out the Khmer Rouge, and installed a dictatorship led by Hun Sen, also a communist.
Confused? Well you're not alone. In any case, Chhun knew he had to do something about this confusing situation, so in the late 1990s, he formed a group called the Cambodian Freedom Fighters that began plotting with former Khmer Rouge officials (the same thugs who murdered millions of Cambodians including Chhun's father) to oust Hun Sen. Chhun's plan was to carry out terrorist attacks on Cambodian soil that would lay the groundwork for a military coup. Instead, his efforts led to the deaths of several innocent bystanders and in 2008, Chhun was convicted of several federal charges involving killing people overseas.
According to a story today in the Long Beach Press Telegram, Chhun has now been sentenced to life in prison. He read a long statement that apparently failed to explain much about why he was conspiring with the folks responsible for the mess he was trying to solve, leaving the judge unsure of what to say except that he felt sorry for Chhun who was not an “evil” man but who simply had a “tragic life.”
The bizarre saga is reminiscent of a similar plan the Weekly covered in detail by several Hmong exiles, including the OC's very own Vang Pao, the former leader of the CIA-backed “Secret Army” who fought the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao guerrillas in Laos during the 1960s and early 1970s. (Charges were dropped against the ailing general last year but remain in place against his alleged co-consiprators at a federal courthouse in Sacramento.